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Valle de Guadalupe Restaurants

Valle de Guadalupe Restaurants

Despite some pretty amazing press recently, not everyone has yet heard of Mexico’s burgeoning wine country Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California. After the reports of many friends and reading rave reviews of Valle de Guadalupe’s wineries and dining options in the New York Times and Sunset Magazine, we had to check it out for ourselves since it’s so close to our home town in San Diego. And we ended up eating our way along the Ruta de Vino (wine route).

Deckman’s parfait of yellowtail ceviche, with layers of crema, avocado, crushed tortilla and sweet tender yellowtail

Valle de Guadalupe Restaurants

A sampling of those we tried:

Deckman’s – This was my favorite of the places we sampled, because I loved the rustic outdoor dining spaces and delicious food. It was amazing to watch the outdoor kitchens prepare delicious roasted meats and vegetables, while the dishes they turned out were truly elegant and photo-worthy.

Corazon de Tierra – A gorgeous dining room with a fantastic menu and celebrated chefs, Corazon is a place I strongly urge you to just choose the 8-course tasting menu, which is paired with wines. Everything we tasted was out of this world, and all fresh vegetables and herbs are grown right outside in the restaurant’s organic gardens.

Floor to ceiling glass windows of Corazon de Tierra overlook their organic vegetable gardens

Finca Altozano – Another long time favorite, this restaurant is more like a compound. Completely open air with a covered dining room, Finca is the darling of the Valle and brainchild of celebrated Chef Javier Placencia. Both rustic and refined, it seemed like cowboy chic with amazingly intricate dishes. Delicious and beautiful.

La Cocina de Doña Esthela – Down-home family style Mexican food, and probably the best you have ever tasted. We went for breakfast and the lines were already forming – our huevos rancheros with fresh warm handmade tortillas were out of this world.

More traditional than some others, Doña Esthela’s has it going on

Hacienda Guadalupe Restaurante – We tried Hacienda for breakfast, and loved the chilaquiles (scrambled eggs, tortillas, salsa and cheese with optional carne asada or carnitas mixed in). We also loved the strong coffee and complimentary baked goods they brought to the table immediately, curbing my hangry self to the point where I could hold a conversation.

And there are many more we want to try, so a list is developing for our next trip.

More on Wineries

Read my blog post on our Valle de Guadalupe Winery Tour for more information.

 

Where to Stay

Here’s a few places to check out:

The hotel rooms at Encuentro de Guadalupe are Leed Certified eco-villas with unparalleled views of the Valle

Hacienda Guadalupe Hotel – Probably the largest in the Valle with 16 rooms, this place looks the most like we would expect in the US.

Encuentro – Stunning. Just stunning. These pods perch on the rocky hilltops overlooking the Valle.

Adobe de Guadalupe – One of the original and most established. Owned by Americans who live onsite.

La Villa del Valle – Conveniently next door to one of the very best restaurants, Corazon de Tierra (see above comments).

Casa 8 – Eight B&B units with a central dining villa, all near the gorgeous Bruma winery and 5-star restaurant.

Rocas de Valle – Lots of choices here from adobe huts to 2-bedroom glamping tents.

 

Getting There

There is a reason they call it Baja California – it is literally an extension of California with an international border drawn across it. Valle de Guadalupe is an easy drive from San Diego, and took us about 1.5 hours to reach. Passing through the San Ysidro border crossing, we entered Tijuana and navigated to the Toll Road which provides the quickest and smoothest highway to Ensenada.

Yes, any navigation system works here, including Google Maps and Waze. If you don’t have the North America plan with your mobile carrier, call and add unlimited calling/data/text for the days you are visiting – very easy and inexpensive. Signal strength is strong, and many locations offer free wifi.

Once you arrive in Valle de Guadalupe, be advised that almost all the roads are unpaved and some are pretty rough. Our friends drove their SUV, which was sturdy and comfortable for the bumpy dirt roads. We saw plenty of BMWs and Mercedes driving around, so it can be done (but I don’t recommend it). There are no streetlights, making the nighttime drive to some locations an adventure in which you will be glad for that navigation system.

We tried Uber one night to reach our dinner destination, and it was pretty wonky. I do not recommend it – call a taxi if you prefer not to drive. We made friends with a local guy who ended up driving us around a couple of nights for $20.


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Valle de Guadalupe Winery Tour

Valle de Guadalupe Winery Tour

Much has been written already about Baja California Mexico’s recently popular Valle de Guadalupe wine country, although it’s been developing for a number of years as a legitimate source of high quality wines. A couple of weekends ago we traveled to Valle de Guadalupe with close friends, motoring across the border from our home in San Diego for an easy 1.5 hour drive along the coast to Ensenada and then inland.

Our friends know their way around, so Triton and I could sit happily in the back as awestruck passengers. Taking in the sights along the way, the terrain grew more beautiful the further south from Tijuana we ventured. A winding road through the hills dropped us into the green valley and its verdant acres of vineyards. I grew up in Northern California with regular trips as a kid to Napa Valley, and Valle de Guadalupe reminds me a bit of Napa before it blew up with big hotels, corporate ownership and wealthy weekenders.

The vines grow strong and true in the Valle de Guadalupe

Originally sprung from the rich local soil some sixty years ago, the early vineyards here have now grown into dozens of small-batch wineries – many family owned and operated. Almost all are located down dirt roads in random locations that seem less planned than simply convenient for the growers, who nurture vines that might have originated from Spaniard occupation centuries ago.

The wineries are legit, and many have sophisticated tasting rooms where guests can sample before purchasing. Others are more mom-and-pop, with dusty roadside tasting areas that seem like the inside of someone’s house (and probably are.)

The wine cave at Bruma Winery in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe wine country

Winery Tour

Here are a few of our favorites to check out. It’s really worth the visit – not difficult to reach, full of rustic charm and very safe. Most of the wineries also have small B&Bs on site, which have also received rave reviews and are booked to capacity many weeks in advance:

Bruma – Brand new and visually stunning, Bruma Winery was created completely from recycled and found materials, all centered around a gigantic dead tree that forms the centerpiece of this gorgeous space. There was a small charge for the wine tour, which was more about the tour than the wine. The wine was good. The architecture was spectacular.

Above the roof at Bruma Winery sits this gorgeous dead tree amid a reflecting pond and natural rocks

Adobe Guadalupe – One of the first to find a tourist crowd, Adobe Guadalupe is a small B&B and winery with a beautiful tasting room/gift shop featuring a very good flight of wines. When you arrive, it’s like a deep breath of fresh air and instant relaxation – complete with food truck. We saw. We tasted. We liked. We purchased.

Vena Cava – Most of the buildings in Valle are created from upcycled materials, including the spaces at Vena Cava. The wine cave is created from overturned boat hulls, forming a zigzag rooftop both interesting and architecturally mind-blowing. The tasting area is outdoors, at brightly colored picnic tables shaded by a web of intricately woven old rubber hoses. Just gorgeous, overlooking the vineyards with a duck pond and adjacent party tent.

Vena Cava Winery boasts one of the more visual quirky and interesting tasting areas – must see

There are many other fine wineries building solid reputations and award-winning vintages. We’ll have to return soon to discover more.

Getting There

Driving – There is a reason they call it Baja California – it is literally an extension of California with an international border drawn across it. Valle de Guadalupe is an easy drive from San Diego, and took us a little under two hours to reach. Passing through the San Ysidro border crossing, we entered Tijuana and navigated to the Toll Road which provides the quickest and smoothest highway to Ensenada.

Once you arrive in Valle de Guadalupe, be advised that almost all the roads are unpaved and some are pretty rough. Our friends drove their SUV, which was sturdy and comfortable for the bumpy dirt roads. We saw plenty of BMWs and Mercedes driving around, so it can be done (but I don’t recommend it). There are no streetlights, making the nighttime drive to some locations an adventure in which you will be glad for that navigation system.

The restaurants are fantastic in Valle de Guadalupe as well, like Deckman’s which served us up a nice chilled local rosé

Wine Tours – Many tour companies have popped up to offer several options for visiting Valle, either for the day via bus or in small groups led by knowledgeable tour guides. A couple options include Baja Winery Tours for a larger group experience, or a more intimate personally led tour by local entrepreneur Fernando Gaxiola’s Baja Wine & Food.